More than 11,000 scientists in 153 countries have declared a climate emergency around the world and also warned of ‘untold suffering’ unless there is significant transformation in the way humans live.
The study by 11,258 scientists called the “World scientists’ warning of a climate emergency,” marks the first time a large group of scientists has formally come out in favor of labeling climate change an ’emergency’. It was published on Tuesday in the journal Bioscience, spearheaded by ecologists Bill Ripple and Christopher Wolf of Oregon State University, along with William Moomaw, a Tufts University climate scientist, and researchers in Australia and South Africa.
The findings focus on six key objectives: replacing fossil fuels; cutting pollutants like methane and soot; restoring and protecting ecosystems; eating less meat; converting the economy to one that is carbon-free and stabilising population growth.
“Despite 40 years of global climate negotiations, with few exceptions, we have generally conducted business as usual and have largely failed to address this predicament,” the study stated.
Although there are some positive indicators such as declining birth rates and a rise in renewable energy use, most indicators suggest humans are rapidly heading in the wrong direction, they said.
Backward steps include rising meat consumption, more air travel, chopping down forests faster than ever and increase in global carbon dioxide emissions. Scientists said they want the public to ‘understand the magnitude of this crisis, track progress, and realign priorities for alleviating climate change’.
The study also departs from other major climate assessments in that it directly addresses the politically sensitive subject of population growth.
The research notes that the global decline in fertility rates has ‘substantially slowed’ during the past 20 years, and calls for ‘bold and drastic’ changes in economic growth and population policies to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Such measures would include policies that strengthen human rights, especially for women and girls, and make family planning services ‘available to all people.’
“Global surface temperature, ocean heat content, extreme weather and its costs, sea level, ocean acidity and land area are all rising,” Professor Ripple said.
“Ice is rapidly disappearing as shown by declining trends in minimum summer Arctic sea ice, Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, and glacier thickness. All of these rapid changes highlight the urgent need for action.”
Lead author, Dr Thomas Newsome from the University of Sydney, said measuring global surface temperatures remained important but that a broader set of indicators should be monitored.
This includes human population growth, meat consumption, tree-cover loss, energy consumption, fossil-fuel subsidies and annual economic losses to extreme weather events, he said.
“Mitigating and adapting to climate change while honoring the diversity of humans entails major transformations in the ways our global society functions and interacts with natural ecosystems,” the scientists added.